Born in Scarborough, Ontario, Barrington Walker, the New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) candidate for Kingston and the Islands moved to the riding in 2002. Walker said he has been a supporter of the NDP since he could vote, and has been a card carrying member of the party since 2016. When asked about a platform for the upcoming 2019 federal election, Walker referred to the official NDP platform, which focuses on a number of things, including access to employment, climate leadership, better access to health care and long term care, addressing reconciliation, and advancing equality for all citizens. In his spare time, Walker enjoys playing hockey, reading, and walking his dog, and he likes to unwind by watching movies.
1. What made you want to run in this federal election?
I decided to run in this election because I am concerned with the increasing social and economic inequality in our country, and with the lack of real action on the climate emergency that is upon us.
Hardworking Canadians are being shut out while those at the very top are doing better than ever before. The future of work that is being presented to Canadians (and young Canadians, in particular) is one that is insecure, precarious and poorly compensated – the “uberization” of work in other words, or the “gig” economy. The winds of intolerance are also starting to blow throughout the country, and we continue to treat Indigenous people as colonial subjects, neglecting their needs while demanding their loyalty. Looming above all of these challenges is the impending climate emergency.
We must push for good, stable, well-paying jobs that will allow Canadians to live meaningful lives. We must redouble our commitment to being a welcoming country, while repairing our relationship with Indigenous people, and working to move beyond an old and unjust colonial framework. Also, as we act on the climate emergency, we must recognize that social, economic, and environmental issues are deeply interconnected, and put forward a plan that addresses all of them.
We need political leaders who realize this and who also realize that as we pivot away from a carbon-based economy, we must not reproduce the injustices of the old economic system. The shift to a green sustainable economy is an opportunity for social, economic and democratic renewal.
2. In your opinion, what is the most important issue being discussed during this election?
The most important issue being discussed in this election is the climate change emergency, which is encouraging, since it is an issue that seriously impacts everyone. The most important thing that is not being discussed is inequality. We need to talk about both of these issues in tandem.
3. What is the single most common thing constituents bring up when you’re going door-to-door?
In the course of knocking on thousands of doors, I’ve had the opportunity to hear about many issues that concern Kingstonians. They are worried about the increasing cost of living and the erosion of social services. They worry that their children will not be able to enjoy that same standard of life that they enjoyed and that their parents enjoyed. The most common thing that voters bring up at the door, however, is a lack of faith in our political system. Many of the people that I have talked to across the political spectrum are increasingly distrustful of the political class. And we know that low voter turnout is becoming a serious problem in elections everywhere. When the majority of people do not turn out to vote, as is increasingly the case, we get election results that are not representative of the will of the people. The response is that people get frustrated, they check out and the system becomes more and more unrepresentative and undemocratic. It is our job as candidates to inspire Kingstonians to get involved in this election whatever their political leanings.
4. Is there one particular issue you would like to champion if elected to represent Kingston and the Islands?
This is a difficult question to answer because there are so many issues that we are facing in this election and they are all connected, so choosing one particular issue is difficult. If there was one issue that I would champion, however, it would be democratic renewal in the form of electoral reform. We need a system of proportional representation in Canada that will allow for a greater diversity of viewpoints, interests, and concerns in Ottawa. Getting rid of the old ‘first past the post’ system will do several things for our country. It will allow voters to vote their conscience and for their beliefs, rather than worrying about who they don’t want, who they are afraid of.
I have met far too many voters who are terrified of the prospect of another government in Ottawa who will do things that the current provincial government is doing, so they are voting out of fear. A system based on the politics of fear is doomed to fail and it is failing us.
Proportional representation would be a game-changer. A renewed parliament with new voices at the table would allow us to address all of the issues that are not currently being addressed by our leaders. We could then be in a position to enact foundational changes, such as a basic income guarantee, tackling the climate change emergency, helping workers transition to a green economy with good paying union jobs, providing head-to-toe health care including pharamacare, and supporting post-secondary students and families with universal daycare and eliminate food insecurity.
5. In your opinion, what is the biggest issue with the current makeup of the federal government?
In my opinion, the biggest issue with the makeup of the federal government is that it has utterly failed to live up to the promise upon which it was elected. This is a government that promised to do politics differently, but it has not. Trudeau’s party ran on a plan for positive change, but fell back into the same old pattern of corruption and broken promises. It legalized marijuana, but did nothing to address the criminal records of those who have been charged and incarcerated for simple possession, most of whom are in marginalized and racial minority communities. This is a government that boasted about gender equality in its cabinet, but refused to implement a system of proportional representation that would have seen more women elected to parliament. This is a government that promised to attack climate change and instead bought a pipeline. This is government that has done very little to address our relationship with Indigenous people, virtually ignoring the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This is a government that makes noises about its commitment to refugees, but it’s quietly shutting the door on them to appease our largest trading partner and oldest ally. We have also, under the radar, become one of the largest exporters of military hardware. My biggest issue with this government, in short, is that it is not what it pretends to be. Canadians deserve much better.
6. If you could share one message with voters in Kingston and the Islands, what would it be?
Vote for what you want, not against what you fear. During this election, the governing party is not going to try to earn your vote based on their record. They know that they cannot. They are going to try and frighten you into voting for what you don’t want. It’s their tried and true playbook, and it’s worked for them for generations. Strategic voting is only strategic in the short term. In the long run it has ruined our political institutions, and has allowed politicians to break promises with no accountability.
This time around, instead of voting against the party you are afraid of, vote for the government that you actually want. If enough of us do that this fall, we can fix our broken system, and deliver on the policies that Canadians deserve.